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From picking fruit to rescuing cats from trees, access platforms have thousands of uses. Now they are becoming a popular piece of machinery on construction sites in the GCC. Hugo Berger investigates why.

Teupen Machinenbau GMBH, ANALYSIS, Business

From picking fruit to rescuing cats from trees, access platforms have thousands of uses. Now they are becoming a popular piece of machinery on construction sites in the GCC. Hugo Berger investigates why.

Access platforms, or cherry pickers as they used to be called, were originally invented for use in orchards.

They were designed to let workers pick fruit from high trees with relative ease.

As safety standards increase in the Middle East, more contractors are using them in their projects.

Similar devices, which kept the name cherry pickers, were then used to service telephone lines and electrical equipment on utility poles.

They have also been converted for use on fire engines, giving firefighters the ability to rescue people from tall burning buildings.

Now access platforms, as they are often called these days, are becoming increasingly common in use in the construction industry.

They allow workers to access upper storeys of buildings and work on façades with relative ease.

As safety standards increase in the Middle East, more contractors are using them in their projects.

A number of firms are providing state-of-the-art machines, which not only allow workers to reach greater heights but are also much safer than previous designs.

One of these firms is Manlift, which opened a Middle East branch in 2006.

Manlift Middle East has grown within a short time to become a leading supplier of access platforms and power generators in the GCC.

The company is the exclusive distributor for Teupen Machinenbau GMBH machines in the Middle East.

Manufactured in Gronau, Germany, the machines have specialist lightweight 'spider booms' with working heights of up to 50m.

Manlift is a 50/50 joint venture between local shareholders and Dutch platforms company Riwal.

Riwal operates a fleet of some 9,000 rental units throughout Europe, The Middle East, several former Soviet Union states and Brazil, and has more than 120 Teupen machines in its rental fleet.

With construction projects in the UAE getting bigger and ever more complicated, building and maintaining them is becoming more difficult, says Frank Stenton, overseas business development manager, Teupen.

Teupen machines are specifically designed to give maximum elevation of working height, whilst maintaining small closed down dimensions and low ground-bearing pressure.

"Even our biggest machine, the Leo50GT, can be driven through a double door and can work on finished floors in, for example, a hotel foyer or shopping mall atrium."

Andy Gatling, sales director Manlift, says the UAE, with its large number of hotels and shopping centres under construction, offers tremendous opportunity for expansion.

Quite simply they can do jobs that other machines can not do.

He says: "We have already had a very encouraging response from our customers for Teupen equipment, particularly the large 36m and 50m Leo Spider booms."

"Quite simply they can do jobs that other machines cannot due to the huge working height versus closed dimensions ratio and relative low weight."

Manlift is already reaping the benefits from the versatility of these Teupen products.

Gatling says: "We are currently renting the Leo 36s to Dutco Balfour Beatty/CCC joint venture in The Dubai Mall Project where the huge atriums and gallerias require a reach well in excess of 30m throughout."

At present the focus for the access platform business in the GCC is very much on construction.

But when all these malls, hotels and airports are finished they will need to be maintained.

Gatling says: "That's when the UAE will start to see the real value of Teupen machines."

Another company making an impact in the access platform market is UpRight.

The firm was founded in 1946 and has grown to become one of the world's most respected names in aerial access.

UpRight Powered Access is the UK's biggest manufacturer of aerial work platforms and a major global player in a high growth industry, generating more than US$8 billion in sales each year.

The company manufactures a wide range of electric and diesel-powered aerial lifts, offering working heights from 4m (12ft) to 40m (126ft).

UpRight machines are used for all working at height applications, from building repair and maintenance to major construction and infrastructure projects.

A growing network of 200 independent distributors provides high-quality local language sales and product support across Europe, Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic states, the Middle East, Southern Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.

UpRight has enjoyed global growth following its acquisition by The Tanfield Group in June 2006.

Since then, it has increased the product range from 10 models to 28 machines and output capacity has grown to more than 200 units per week, making UpRight Britain's biggest manufacturer of aerial work platforms.

The stand at SED 2008 is managed by UpRight's Master Distributor for the UK, UpRight Powered Access Sales UK (UPAS UK).

This is a partnership between access platform spare parts and service provider, IPS, and national powered access sales and rental company, APS.

With nine depots and an experienced team of service engineers, UPAS UK claims it provides the most comprehensive nationwide product support coverage for powered access platforms in the country.

Another firm making waves in the GCC market is the Haulotte group.

Recently the firm added another telescopic boom to its line-up of products.

According to the company, operator comfort has been improved on the HB86 TJ+, thanks to the new model's proportional movements and self-levelling systems.

Rigidity has been improved in boom and jib with a new hexagonal cross section providing greater stability to both models.

Additionally, the big-boom has a differential wheel lock and an oscillating axle, to help provide access for hard-to-reach areas.

The company opened in the Middle East in November 2007, joining big names such as Genie and Terex, which have become long established in the region.

However, Haulotte Group has been on the Paris stock exchange since 1998 and the company has been manufacturing for more than a century. Besides aerial work platforms, other products include telescopic handlers, multi-jobs and self-propelled cranes.

With a $752.8 million turnover in 2006, the group also operates in Europe, Asia and the USA as well as Australia and Russia.

So it looks likely that as the construction industry continues to boom in the GCC,those selling access platforms are going to reach greater heights in numbers of sales.

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